Primary care physicians refer their patients to more specialized providers all the time. Even specialists like OB-GYNs may refer patients to doctors with more experience and training in a particular area of medicine. In fact, a doctor’s failure to refer a patient whom they’re not adequately trained or qualified to treat can get them sued for malpractice.
What if the specialist your doctor referred you to made a serious misdiagnosis, botched your surgical procedure or was guilty of some other kind of negligence or action that caused you harm? You may likely have grounds for a malpractice suit against them, but could you also sue your doctor (who spoke glowingly of this specialist and whose judgment you trusted) for a negligent referral?
How much did your doctor know?
It all depends on what your doctor knew (or should have known) about the specialist. Likely, they had only heard good things about them – or at least they weren’t aware of any problems like pending lawsuits, complaints to the medical board or a substance abuse issue.
Sometimes a doctor may know things like that about another physician and still refer patients to them. Maybe the two are friends, maybe they don’t believe the accusations or rumors or maybe (in a worst-case scenario) they’re getting some kind of kickback for referrals.
Doctors will often provide multiple names when referring patients
Most doctors are very cautious about referring patients precisely to avoid accusations of negligent referral. Often, they’ll give a patient a list of several names of specialists within their health care system or who have privileges at the same hospital as them and let the patient choose for themselves.
No matter how much you trust your primary care physician, you should always do some research of your own on a specialist or other doctor they refer you to – at least before you begin treatment with them. That doesn’t absolve a referring doctor of their responsibility, however. If you believe you may have a case of negligent referral, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.